Diaries of a Young Pen: How I Became a Journalist

April 6, 2008

The Warm Mediterranean weather turned cold inside the varnished stones of the Moroccan Journalism Institute’s German style building. About 90 pale faces were sitting in the hall waiting for their turn to take the interview for studying in this prestigious college. They all know that if they succeeded out of 1500 students in the written exam, only 30 lucky people will remain by the end of the day.

The Moroccan educational system is the inheritor of the French colonizer’s educational model. Therefore, higher education is divided into two main streams. On the one hand, we have the universities, which are opened to everyone after high school, but which are very weak and mostly theoretical. On the other hand, there are the prestigious specialized institutes, which require high grades and entrance exams, and which guarantee very good education with field practice. The Journalism Institute was built in 1969 by a German institution and is considered one of the best journalism schools in Africa. (See http://www.isic.ac.ma/)

A tall man wearing a formal suit came out of the room and asked if someone could make a list of the candidates according to the cities where they live, so that people living far from Rabat could have the interview first and catch their trains. A little voice stepped out of the crowd, and I said: I’ll do it!

When my turn finally came, I opened the door and found three men, who seemed a bit astonished to see a 155 cm creature looking at them with all the self-confidence of the world:

  • The first man: Why did you volunteer to make that list?
  • Me: I think what’s missing in most young people is the sense of taking initiatives, and I wanted to help.
  • The second man: Why do you want to become a journalist?
  • Me: Because it’s a noble job, from which I can contribute to the change of my country. It’s also been my goal since I was 4 years old.
  • The second man: 4 years girls don’t usually have goals, they have dreams.
  • Me: I only believe in concrete and feasible dreams, and becoming a journalist is possible if I work hard, so it’s a goal.
  • The third man: What kinds of journalism are you interested in, Miss Sarah Zaaimi?
  • Me: I would like to become a political and social journalist in the printed press.
  • The first man (while staring at me): Don’t you know that the print press in Morocco is a field for men, not for women, and that most women who write in Moroccan news papers only write in cultural and family pages?
  • Me: I think being a journalist should be gender blind.  In addition, I think this institute is a laboratory for creating new forms of journalism. So what is in the Moroccan media field today is not a model to consider. If I get the chance to study here, I think I’ll do my best to contribute positively to the process of change in Moroccan journalism.

I think my audacious words during that interview, were enough to give me the winning ticket to journalism school, and to this huge jungle called Media. The Moroccan audio-visual media outlets were monopolized by the state until the late 1980s, whereas the printed press was the field of battle for different political parties. Since the early 1990s, which corresponds to the last decade of King Hassan the second’s reign, the Moroccan print press has witnessed the rise and the flourishing of a new generation of independent newspapers. These newspapers have an important amount of free expression, and in the absence of a real opposition in the Moroccan political field, this independent press is called: The New Opposition.

Today I’m a 23 year-old young journalist, a master’s student concerned with identity issues, a youth activist involved in many projects with the League of Arab States, The Euro-Med, The Soliya Program, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Above all, I am a young woman in a Middle Eastern country trying to express my generation’s frustrations and contribute to change my society with my modest work. If you want to learn more about the adventures of a young pen, read my diaries on www.shababinclusion.org/.



  1. As an American teacher with a specialty in Geography, I would like to inform you that Europe traditionally ends at the summit of the Ural mountains, and at the western edge of the Caspian Sea.

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)

  2. it’s true! but it’s also true that europe and asia are the same continent if you see them in a map!

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